Poor teachers face tougher system under shake-up

Teacher and pupil Ofsted's annual report complained teaching standards in England's schools were too variable

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Plans to make it easier for head teachers in England to sack underperforming staff are to go ahead from September, the government says.

It says poor teachers could be removed within a term instead of a year, which can be the case at present.

The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, says schools have been "tangled in red tape" for too long when dealing with struggling staff.

Teachers' unions say the changes are draconian and a bully's charter.

The government proposed the changes in May last year.

It has now confirmed that the procedure for dealing with underperforming teachers will be "simplified" and given a shorter minimum timeframe.

It says in straightforward cases, the process could be completed in nine weeks.

There will also be a requirement for teachers to be assessed every year on whether they meet new standards, which cover teaching and "personal and professional conduct".

Head Amanda Phillips said ''good and outstanding'' teachers were needed to help young people

And a current three-hour limit on the time a head can observe in a teacher's classroom in a year has been lifted.

The government is also consulting on proposals that it says would deal with the problem of poor teachers being moved on from school to school.

This would mean that if a school made inquiries about a teacher it was thinking of hiring, previous employers would have to say, if asked, whether he or she had been through what are known as "capability procedures".

Mr Gove said there were many excellent teachers and heads - and that the changes would improve schools by helping them identify extra training needs.

"For far too long, schools have been tangled up in complex red tape when dealing with teachers who are struggling," he said.

"That is why these reforms focus on giving schools the responsibility to deal with this issue fairly and quickly.

"Schools need to be able to dismiss more quickly those teachers who, despite best efforts, do not perform to the expected standard. Future employers also need to know more about the strengths and weaknesses of teachers they are potentially employing.

"Nobody benefits when poor teaching is tolerated. It puts pressure on other teachers and undermines children's education."

Start Quote

The changes will rightly be seen by teachers as an attack on their professionalism and will anger and depress them ”

End Quote Christine Blower National Union of Teachers

Mr Gove told BBC Breakfast that the planned process "only kicks in when it's clear that there are problems".

He added: "And that term is an opportunity for a teacher who has resisted every encouragement so far to improve what they do, to finally focus on getting their act together, or acknowledge that perhaps, whatever their talents, they should move on to another profession."

The annual report of England's schools inspectors Ofsted in November highlighted variable teaching standards as a cause for concern.

It said: "Although teaching has been judged to be inadequate this year in just 3% of schools, it is a serious concern that teaching in over 40% of primary and secondary schools is no better than satisfactory and is only outstanding in around 4%."

However, the inspectors said the quality of teaching in schools had improved.

Michael Gove: ''This process only kicks in when it's clear that there are problems''

The changes come as the government disbands the General Teaching Council for England - the teachers' professional body which took decisions on whether teachers should be barred.

It is being replaced by the new Teaching Agency which will hear the most serious cases involving misconduct.

Decisions about whether to sack teachers are taken at school level.

Head teachers had asked for changes to the present system.

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "The simplest way to protect teachers is to be seen to be taking responsibility for our own performance.

"Everyone deserves to know how they are doing and how they can develop, and this needs to be done out in the open. The revised procedures reflect a large proportion of NAHT's hopes. They are simple and flexible, firm but fair.

"A streamlined approach to capability will, on the rare occasions that it is needed, help schools act more decisively in pupils' interests and reduce the conflict that these actions can generate."

'Improve teachers'

But unions representing classroom teachers have criticised the changes.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The changes to the appraisal and capability policies will rightly be seen by teachers as an attack on their professionalism and will anger and depress them in equal measure.

"What the government proposes is potentially a bully's charter.

General secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, Chris Keates, said the announcement was ''hugely demoralising''

"If schools are serious about addressing the issue of teacher competence should it arise, they must do it in a fair fashion and not be constrained by a one-term time limit. It is far better to improve teachers than to seek measures to sack them."

Ms Blower also told BBC Breakfast that there were teachers who, for a variety of reasons, "may go through a period when they're not absolutely performing as well as everyone would want.

"But with help and support they can do. So let's make sure that every teacher is supported so they can do the best job they can."

Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, said the changes were draconian and based on "manipulated evidence".

"There is no evidence the current system is not working," she said.

"The powers used for disputes are exactly the same processes that responsible employers are using.

"This is hugely demoralising for all those hard-working teachers."

UK picture

Education is devolved around the UK.

In Scotland, decisions on whether to sack teachers are taken by the local authority employers rather than schools.

If someone is dismissed, the case can then be referred to the General Teaching Council for Scotland, which could take a decision to bar a teacher.

The GTCS is consulting on processes for dealing with incompetent teachers.

In Wales, there has been a consultation on the system for appraising teachers.

A spokesman for the Welsh government said: "It is important that poor performance in schools is dealt with effectively and fairly to ensure that standards across the board are not affected.

"Although we currently have no plans to change the current system relating to capability of teachers, we are working on comprehensive guidance to ensure the procedures we do have in place work effectively."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    But how are they defining "poor"? Mr Gove's definition of "good" deals in how many A grades students get in a narrowing list of academic subjects. Do you bust a gut helping G grade students up to a D? Well, someone getting A grade students up to... well, an A is doing "better" than you. Carry on down this route, and soon there won't BE anyone risking "failure" with those G grade kiddies....

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    I am sure that 12 weeks or a term is long enough for anyone to show whether they can turn around a poor performance. Same should apply to head teachers, but if someone is making progress they should get another chance. Those who cannot or will not improve are the exception and should go. A year is too long, too much damage can be dome in that time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Quite often one persons bad teacher is another persons good teacher. I have a sneaking suspicion that Micheal Groves has singular narrow veiw of what a good teacher is. Be a Teacher only those who are perfect Human beings should apply.

  • Comment number 193.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    I can't think of a more difficult job than teaching. Imagine having a classroom of children, many who are undisciplined by parents, and policy says you are not to discipline these little darlings either. Who really wins the 'brat' or 'your' child who really would like an uninterrupted class with teacher? Get rid of 'red tape' and/or 'discipline' the parents!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    This seems a strange story, how are poor teachers to be quantified? Are poor teachers those whose students perform the worse? Isn't that the student's fault rather than the teacher's? You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Next it’s teacher recruitment. A teacher must tell their current school they are going for an interview. Secondly, after a set of tick box interview questions a decision is made. The teacher is hired. No time to sleep on it, no time for a second interview. The only time you realise you have a bad teacher is when they start work. And then of course, you couldn’t get rid of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    I have the impression that satisfactory is not good enough ?....so why use such terminology?....not all teachers are good or outstanding all of the time , it can be the particular school or methodology ..several times I witnessed teachers judged by OFSTED as satis, the head changed and the teacher was graded as good .....sorry Mr Gove a school is as good as it's head and managers !

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    If I am bad at my job I get 'PIP'd... Performance Improvement Plan. This is a set of targets that must be met within a set time period. Failure to improve means disciplinary processes kick in. This, ultimately, can lead to dismissal. What makes teachers so special? Surely if there's a proper process in place to ensure improvements or get rid of deadwood then that must be a good thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    My daughters 1° school is subject to OFSTED soon I was amazed to read a letter from the head (to parents) saying something to the effect of 'I am sure you will all be thinking of us as we go through this very difficult period This says a lot! Teaching looks to be a profession where they dislike being appraised/made accountable (it's always the pupils fault) and they genuinely believe it's tough

  • Comment number 186.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    Its not always the teachers who are at fault, there are some very bad head teachers, and they are allowing them to "weed" out the poor teachers. Very unfair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    As one who has worked both in the private sector and also as a teacher, I have to say that life in the private sector was a doddle compared to teaching 30+ unruly children. The working hours of a conscientious teacher in term time far exceed most worked in the private sector and the pay was not brilliant. The existing capability rules are fine. Why make teachers different? There's no need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    @Chingfordassociates...You are correct.

    Also funny that the people observing teacherscan't normally teach themselves!

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    The able and academic teachers
    do not want to be a teacher as the focus is more on the classroom dicipline , half of the time goes in shushing the class , If you want to have the students who are interested in real academic education , perhaps you will find half the school empty. Are you looking for a excellent Discipline Performer or a Academic Performer to raise the standard

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Presumably those saying that this is a charter for bullies are those that are under-performing and are worried that they might have to pull their socks up. Today teachers tomorrow the rest of the public service. About time too. Far too much time is spent on under-performing people who think that they have a right to stay in their job. We used to call them barrack room lawyers in my days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    Let's face facts headteachers are not the best teachers. In schools! Many of them became headteachers because they knew they couldn't hack it in the classroom. Yet here they are judging something they potentially can not do themselves. Gove is being a hypocrite, if he wants only the best teachers in the classroom why is allowing unqualified people to teach in academies and free schools?

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    The governments and politically correct in this country
    took powers away from teachers that enabled them to
    keep unruly pupils in check. So now if they cant keep
    order they will pay with the lose of there jobs, IT STINKS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    Common to other careers, I imagine teaching is tough if you are dedicated, motivated, inspirational and enthusiastic. However, unlike most other careers, it seems to me that because teachers are not formally appraised, then those lacking the above attributes continue to provide a dismal service to their customers (the pupils). Teachers (with parents) need to share the accountability for teaching!

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    doctor bob

    ++ Quite as many Ofsted inspectors are failed teachers. Well, at least that provides a career avenue for those displaced from schools as incompetent.

    Rubbish. Many Ofsted inspectors are practicing teachers/heads, and a lot of inspectors are HMI's. Many are retired teachers who have seen it all. It's very difficult to pull the wool over their eyes. Incompetents? I don't think so.


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